Parents and carers fear for future of High Peak centre for adults with learning disabilities

Parents and carers who use the Alderbrook Day Centre in Chinley are fearing for its future.

Friday, 11th February 2022, 4:12 pm

In March 2020, services at the centre, which offers a range of activities for people with learning disabilities, were closed as the first lockdown began.

Now almost two years on, Alderbrook - which used to serve 83 people Monday to Friday - only welcomes 12 people on a part-time basis.

Last month families were dealt another blow after a Derbyshire County Council cabinet meeting outlined it was looking to temporarily consolidate day services for people with learning disabilities and for older people onto a reduced number of sites.

Families, carers and service users are concerned about the future of the Alderbrook Centre

They also spoke about releasing staff to bolster essential service within the care sector.

Families who rely on the services at Alderbrook are worried this could be the first step to the centre closing.

Mum Christine Tunnicliffe from Buxton has been sending her 42-year-old daughter Julie to Alderbrook for decades.

Julie has epilepsy which has caused brain damage, meaning she only has the mental capacity of a two-year-old.

County Councillor Ruth George outside the Alderbrook Centre

Christine said: “She needs constant one to one attention and has always been so well looked after at Alderbrook but everything has changed since covid.

“Now she only goes three days a week because they say they are trying to keep people safe and in bubbles but no one else is following social restrictions any more so why is Alderbook?

“Going is good for her – it gives her social interaction and it also gives me a chance to go to work.

“We have been told we will only be given a day’s notice if the centre is to shut and the staff are to be deployed to care homes. To me this very much seems like the first step of closing it completely which is such a worry for families like me that rely on the service.”

The Branching Out Garden Centre which is part of the Alderbrook Centre site

Alderbrook has rooms catering for crafts, music, woodwork, cooking. The garden centre also offered qualifications in horticulture and experience in the shop.

Derbyshire County Councillor Ruth George says she has met with the families and is campaigning to keep the centre open.

She said: “Parents of the current 12 service users all received phone calls to say Alderbrook may be closing temporarily, but as the provision is now so limited, they are worried that any temporary closure may be extended.

“These families feel like they have no voice and their concerns are not being listened to.

Part of the Alderbrook site

“Alderbrook means so much to so many people across the High Peak and to lose it would be terrible. I worry if it does close it won’t be reopened again.”

Since covid, the woodworking centre has not reopened and foster carer Pat Arthurs says this is impacting on the person she continued to care for after his 18th birthday in a scheme called Shared Lives.

She said: “All he has ever known is Alderbrook and he gets excited and asks if he is going on the bus.

“He was depressed during lockdown and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go.

“Although he is one of the lucky 12 who has gone back to Alderbrook, it needs opening up properly and getting everyone back and doing all the services again before it’s too late.”

A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council, which runs the centre, said: “Alderbrook Day Centre is currently open and there has been no need to redeploy colleagues, despite ongoing Covid pressures being experienced in the health and care sector.

“Each day service, including Alderbrook, has been assessed by our health and safety team to identify safe numbers of people in each room including staffing.

“Day services have been working in bubbles in set areas so only one bubble has to close in the event of a Covid outbreak.

“This has been really effective in preventing the whole service from having to close down again, but unfortunately it has meant at Alderbrook we haven’t yet been able to reopen the woodworking centre.

“While we had to allocate provision as fairly as possible to ensure those who need it most get support, we recognise the difficulty faced by carers and people who previously attended the day centres prior to the pandemic.

“In spring 2020, we established a team of social work practitioners to work alongside these service users with a learning disability and or autism, and we’ve been exploring a range of opportunities to meet their social care needs and access to other day opportunities available in the private, independent and voluntary sector.

“Across Derbyshire 190 people are now accessing alternative opportunities, 111 people have chosen only to return to one of our day centres and 28 people have chosen to combine attending one of our day centres with alternative opportunities.”

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